So, in the past year, two people have cut me out of their lives. One, last summer, and one, last week.
That's a radical step to take. Declaring someone Persona Non Grata (henceforth abbreviated PNG) is, to me, the very last resort to deal with someone's behavior or beliefs.
Do I think these were justified? In short, no, and I'll illustrate why by showing you two people who did declare me PNG and were entirely justified in doing so.
Both D and T cut me off completely around 2011. And frankly, they were entirely in the right. While I, personally, would not view what I did as unforgivable I can also see why they would have found it so. Had I a friend in a similar situation who said, "This person did this," I would absolutely tell them to go no-contact. I don't bear a grudge about this. I would not, today, try to speak to them. If they were to speak to me, I would definitely welcome being forgiven, but would probably not seek to become bestest buddies. Too much has happened, and I would probably limit contact to Facebook friending, the occasional email, and a phone call now and again - not for my sake, but for theirs, to avoid causing them undue distress. As it hasn't happened, I am at peace with it. I regret it deeply, and would hope that one day they'd forgive me, but again, I understand completely. I think that my behavior was certainly, in the context of friendship, felonious, and thus I think their actions entirely appropriate.
Last summer's incident, though, was more what I'd classify as a misdemeanor offense. Basically, I was cut off for running off at the mouth: making inappropriate remarks. I did apologize for them, but that was not deemed sufficient. Fair enough. I don't hold a grudge here either (as a rule I try to avoid them these days), but if the person in question were to re-establish contact it would be sticky for me. I think I would forever be walking on eggshells around this person, afraid of causing offense.
Last week's incident was when a person cut me off based on my political views. This person and I agree on 99% of stuff politically, but one issue was apparently eating at them and when I refused to capitulate on it, I was summarily cut off (with some nasty remarks about my tendency to "play the martyr," accusations of emotional manipulation, and implications that I never admit wrongdoing thrown in). This one hurts a lot. In particular I feel that a person not of my ethno-religious identity would not be subjected to such a thorough interrogation on this one issue, and I also feel that the conversation around it was highly problematic and full of unfortunate remarks (pro-tip: it's never a good look to say "I checked with other people of your ethno-religious group and THEY say I'm not being problematic").
As I'm a person who examines myself regularly, I had to ask, "What's going on here? Am I a legitimately shitty person, or do I just hang around people who are a bit too trigger happy to PNG someone?"
After some soul-searching, I've come to the conclusion that in the first cases where people cut me off nearly eight years ago, I did a legitimately horrible thing and deserved every bit of it. In the third case, I feel that I did a moderately shitty thing. People are free not to accept apologies, even when they're sincere, so no harm no foul there. The last incident, however, I honestly feel was not something that could have been avoided no matter how angelic a person I was and was entirely on the other person.
So I'm not, in the final analysis, THAT shitty a person. At least, I'm no shittier than most. This is hardly a good thing; I'm always seeking to better that. Given that my therapist has brought up the possibility that I struggle with scrupulosity (something usually found in people with OCD but according to him not uncommon in religious people with any flavor of mental illness - and since he's an ordained minister in addition to being a psychotherapist he would know), and I think he's onto something, it shouldn't have to be said that all the above is incredibly painful. A lot of my intrusive thoughts involve my inadequacy as a human being - but not just as a human being, as someone who strives to be Godly. And I think that accusing someone dealing with scrupulosity of "playing the martyr" in an incredibly scornful tone is a low blow (but to be fair the person in question doesn't know about scrupulosity or my own struggles with it).
I suppose there are lessons to be learned here. In the first incident where people cut me off it's pretty clear. Don't do horrible things to yourself, thinking you're the only one affected. That is the height of selfishness and insensitivity. Second incident? It pays to be careful with words. Words mean things, and once said can't be unsaid. And apologies might never be accepted, even if sincere (but that doesn't mean you shouldn't apologize, but only if you mean it). Third incident? Sadly, there's no moral to be derived there. I don't feel like a martyr to a cause or belief, for the record, despite what they may say. It's just sad.
However, Lord Sacks, former chief rabbi of the Commonwealth, offers a bit of wisdom that applies here. "You will find much in life to distress you. People can be careless, cruel, thoughtless, offensive, arrogant, harsh, destructive, insensitive, and rude. But that is their problem, not yours. Your problem is how to respond," he writes. And he goes on to say, "Don’t hand others a victory over your own emotional state. Forgive, or if you can’t forgive, just ignore." Persona non grata status in my mind should be reserved for those who we cannot forgive but only ignore. It's pretty crushing to be in that position to someone you care for, especially for offenses that are - in your mind, and seemingly objectively - misdemeanors at worst. But the words apply to everyone equally, so my choice is simply to forgive. I am not going to hold a grudge at someone's misconceptions of my character.